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AOL names chief for paid services

America Online appoints Ned Brody, a former chief operating officer of search company LookSmart, to develop, launch and market new subscription-based services.

America Online on Tuesday appointed Ned Brody, a former chief operating officer of search company LookSmart, to oversee its paid services efforts.

Brody will become senior vice president of premium services at the AOL Time Warner unit and report to broadband services head Lisa Hook. Brody's appointment comes a day after AOL promoted former entertainment programming head Kevin Conroy to be the chief operating officer for AOL for Broadband, also reporting to Hook.

Brody will be responsible for developing, launching and marketing new subscription-based services. The hope is to create new services that AOL members will pay for on top of their existing subscriptions.

AOL has earmarked premium services as a key element in overcoming its financial woes. The company is in the midst of a downturn in online advertising revenue, which is expected to fall 35 percent to 40 percent this year. In hopes of stemming the tide, AOL executives last December outlined a multifaceted strategy to turn around the division, emphasizing broadband connections, launching premium services and revamping its advertising.

Since unveiling the turnaround plan, AOL has opened the doors to a few premium services, including one for voice mail and MusicNet for online music. The company in March also began charging non-AOL members for downloading graphical "skins" for their AOL Instant Messenger clients.

Fee-based subscriptions on the Web are still in the early stages, and it's too soon to determine whether online consumers will warm up to the idea. Web portal Yahoo started the trend when it highlighted paid services as part of its turnaround plan in 2001. Last quarter, Yahoo said its paid subscriber base reached 2.9 million.